by Amy Bell

If you’re like thou­sands of other job seek­ers, you may dream of earn­ing the big bucks with­out hav­ing to deal with the extreme stress that goes hand-in-hand with top-paying jobs. Of course, a high-salary, low-stress job sounds too good to be true. Or is it?

Believe it or not, you don’t have to take on a heart-pounding career as a brain sur­geon, air­line pilot or stock bro­ker to bring home some seri­ous bacon. As a mat­ter of fact, some of the highest-stress jobs pay sur­pris­ingly scanty salaries. Just think about police offi­cers, fire­fight­ers and social work­ers. These folks have quite pos­si­bly the most nerve-racking jobs in the world, yet most of them earn less than $45,000 a year. What about com­bat sol­diers who face death on a daily basis? They typ­i­cally earn less than $30,000 a year.

In other words, high stress does not always equal a hefty salary, or vice versa. For­tu­nately, there are plenty of laid-back career choices that pay quite generously.

Phys­i­cal Therapist

Although phys­i­cal ther­a­pists (PT) work in the noto­ri­ously stress­ful med­ical field, they enjoy some unique advan­tages over ER nurses and doc­tors. First of all, PTs have flex­i­ble hours and gen­er­ally aren’t expected to work nights. Sec­ondly, many phys­i­cal ther­a­pists are self-employed – which means they don’t have to deal with the stress of a boss breath­ing down their neck while they work.

Plus, as the mas­sive Baby Boomer gen­er­a­tion con­tin­ues grow older and face new phys­i­cal chal­lenges, PTs are con­stantly flooded with patients. As a result, phys­i­cal ther­a­pists rarely suf­fer from dry spells.

To top it all off, phys­i­cal ther­a­pists can earn any­where between $50,000–105,000 a year. Now that’s therapeutic.

Com­puter Soft­ware Engineer

If you’re a tech geek seek­ing a rel­a­tively low-pressure career, you may want to check out the soft­ware engi­neer­ing field. Soft­ware engi­neers design and test a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent types of soft­ware, from com­puter games to oper­at­ing sys­tems to busi­ness appli­ca­tions. These days, many soft­ware engi­neers can work from home, since their jobs can be done from prac­ti­cally anywhere.

Soft­ware engi­neers also bring home steep salaries, nor­mally rang­ing between $54,000–130,000 a year. There’s noth­ing nerdy about that.

Civil Engi­neer

Civil engi­neers design and build our nation’s infra­struc­ture, from pub­lic build­ings and roads to water sup­ply and pol­lu­tion con­trol sys­tems. Obvi­ously, these projects aren’t pressure-free, but civil engi­neers gen­er­ally work in teams, which helps alle­vi­ate some of the stress. As a bonus, these experts also enjoy long dead­lines. As a mat­ter of fact, most engi­neers have a few years to design and plan out a project before the con­struc­tion com­pany even breaks ground.

Even less stress­ful? Civil engi­neers don’t have to work too hard to hunt down jobs. Accord­ing to the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics, civil engi­neers are expected to see a 24% spike in employ­ment growth over the next 10 years – well above aver­age for all U.S. occu­pa­tions. Civil engi­neers bring home a respectable $50,000–115,000 a year.

Mas­sage Therapist

Mas­sage ther­apy is an extremely low-pressure, relax­ing career for most peo­ple. (As long as the thought of touch­ing a stranger’s back doesn’t drive your stress level through the roof, of course.) Not only are most mas­sage ther­a­pists self employed, but they also get to smell smooth­ing aro­mather­apy scents and lis­ten to calm­ing back­ground music or ocean sounds all day while they work.

Because many mas­sage ther­a­pists work part-time, yearly salaries vary wildly in this field. How­ever, most of these mas­sag­ing mas­ters charge by the hour. On aver­age, they earn between $10–35 an hour.

Of course, if you take on plenty of clients, you could eas­ily earn a salary of $45,000 or more. That kind of cash will cer­tainly not rub you the wrong way.

Tech­ni­cal Writer

In this high-tech age, new ground­break­ing tools, mobile devices or inno­v­a­tive gad­gets are released on prac­ti­cally a daily basis. Obvi­ously, some­one has to write about these inge­nious doo­dads and com­pli­cated thingam­abobs. That’s where tech­ni­cal writ­ers come into play.

Although they some­times face tight dead­lines, tech­ni­cal writ­ers typ­i­cally enjoy flex­i­ble hours and a com­fort­able, quiet work­space. Quite a few of them have an envi­able 10-second com­mute – from their bed­room to their desk. Because all they need is a phone and a com­puter with an inter­net con­nec­tion, many tech­ni­cal writ­ers work from home.

What’s more is that tech­ni­cal writ­ers are extremely high in demand. As tech­ni­cal com­pa­nies con­tinue to release pio­neer­ing new prod­ucts, some­one has to trans­form their com­plex technical-ese into every­day lan­guage the aver­age cus­tomer can com­pre­hend. Tech­ni­cal writ­ers gen­er­ally earn between $47,000–98,000 a year.

Lower Your Stress; Raise Your Salary

So, it turns out that you don’t have to risk life and limb, save lives or suf­fer from stress-induced stom­ach ulcers to make a decent salary. From sales man­agers and graphic design­ers to col­lege pro­fes­sors and train­ing con­sul­tants, there are plenty of reward­ing, angst-less jobs out there that come with gen­er­ous salaries.